We've all had a chance to sober up (some) from the big game, and besides basking in the glory of being national champions, there's the business of sorting out how Texas won the game.
*Let's just get Vince Young out of the way here. Every single story in every magazine, newspaper, blog, and television is about Young, so we're not going to re-hash it. He was the MVP, the best player on the field, and all the rest. Truly a one-of-a-kind performance.
--This vindicates our argument that Young should have been the Heisman Trophy winner, by the way. We argued, convincingly we thought, that Young was the best player on the field in every game, and he was most outstanding because of his ability to run AND pass like a Heisman player. After last night's game, most of the nation agrees, and were there a recall election, Young would win the award.
--Young's performance also apparently boosted his draft status among NFL teams. According to some reports, the Texans would consider taking Young 1st overall were he to decide to enter the draft. I still think he'll stay for his senior year, but it was that kind of performance.
*I thought that one of the biggest keys to the game was the Texas' defense ability to prevent USC from scoring the big play. You could literally see how badly USC wanted to put Texas away with the big play, but Texas refused to give in. To their credit, USC did an excellent job of taking what Texas gave them, but you could literally sense how badly USC wanted to put the game away with the big play, but couldn't.
The Horns ability to make USC work for their scores kept the game from getting in to one of those out of hand, Pac 10 showdowns, a type of game USC is better suited to win. Instead, Texas kept the pace at a reasonable clip and eventually wore down the Trojans. The game could have gone either way, but the Texas coaches did a great job doing what they had to to keep the game close.
*Gene Chizik has now won something like 26 straight games, and I was thrilled with his gameplan for USC on Wednesday night. He allowed USC to take the 4-8 yard plays underneath, refusing to give ground on the big plays. I can't emphasize how important I think it was that USC wasn't able to land one of their patented big plays. It's those plays that tend to break teams' backs. Texas refused to allow it. A great job by Chizik.
*Matt Leinart had a great game. I thought he was excessive about his refusal to take a hit, occassionally avoiding contact when yards could be had on a run, but other than that, he was masterful. He took what the Horns gave him and was a true technician, making accurate throws and perfect reads. In the end, it wasn't enough, but you can't fault Leinart for the loss. He had an outstanding game. I thought he might be the problem for USC. He wasn't. Instead, it was...
*...Reggie Bush. The Heisman winner didn't have a bad game statistically, with over 200 all purpose yards, but he didn't have a good game. His pitch-fumble was a huge mistake when he tried to make too much happen, and he was never able to break a big run. Even his 20 yard touchdown scamper would have only been good for 25 yards had he had more field in front of him. Texas had the team speed to stay with Bush, and he just didn't look immortal as he did against slower, weaker defenses. If anyone's draft stock went down last night, it was Bush. We've been saying for a while now that while Bush has great pro potential, he looks better than he is because of the poor team speed of the defenses he's facing. He's still got great pro potential, but at least we can all stop with the He's Immortal talk for a while.
Bush was trying so hard to make plays last night, but Chizik did a great job of having the speed ready on the outside for him. He was never able to shake free, and you could feel his frustration. I think that contributed to his first quarter mistake. He wanted to big play all game. Never got it.
*Lendale White, on the other hand, was very strong. I thought USC's coaches did a great job using him and recognizing that he was going to be effective against what Texas was giving the USC offense. The Trojans are too deep and talented to stop, and it's not surprising that they scored 38 points. Still, they can score 50+ on anyone if the opposing defense isn't having a good day. Kudos to Chizik and the Horns defenders for executing the game plan. It's weird to say, but only allowing 38 points was a success. The strategy worked. 38 is not enough to beat Vince Young.
*In one of my Rose Bowl previews, I said that Vince Young seemed to have an "MJ mode." He had it in last year's Rose Bowl, and he had it again this year. So next time you hear Vince talking about all the things he thinks he can do, just remember: he's not an arrogant asshole. He's just really confindent, really competitive, and really good. Like MJ.
*Lastly, while Matt Leinart played well, he was a total bitch in defeat. Maybe he learned it in Ballroom Dancing, but after the game, he got all stepsisterly bitchy and said, "I think we're still the better football team, but we didn't make plays." For all the bitching about Vince Young being "classless," I think we saw who the real poor sport was.
To be fair, Leinart's coach, Pete Carroll, was very gracious in defeat. Congratulations to him on the ridiculous 34 game winning streak and two national titles.
Now, the torch has been passed. Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns are the national champions. Just like we called it, by three points. Your 2005 National Champions: Texas Longhorns.
And did anyone notice we beat Memphis on the road in basketball on Monday? My, my... Things are good in Austin these days.